By Nicole Jansezian
CBN Israel is preparing to deal with an expected “tsunami” of psychological and emotional counseling that will be needed as Israelis process the Hamas atrocities of October 7 which left 1,200 dead, tens of thousands displaced and 240 as hostages in Gaza.
“It wasn’t just those injured, and people directly affected that were impacted by this war—it affected the whole nation,” said Arik Pelled, director of CBN Israel’s Family Department. “The atrocities created a national trauma.”
Since the war, Israel has seen an increase in anxiety, fear, and insecurity, according to experts who spoke with CBN Israel. And Israelis who were directly affected by the atrocities are not the only ones impacted. An estimated 120,000 residents have been displaced and are living in hotels. Many still live under the threat of rocket fire and every resident is watching the morbid news on a regular basis.
“The 7th of October was a change in the mindset, I think, of the Israeli society,” said Talia Levanon, CEO of Israel Trauma Coalition. “We’re going to carry it for many years, also for more than one generation.”
CBN is teaming up with the Israel Trauma Coalition to meet this need including training more therapists, introducing emergency early-intervention therapies and building mobile therapy units.
“We are making it possible for more people to get the counseling they need either on an emergency basis or regularly,” Pelled said.
Pelled noted that the October 7 attacks shattered many securities that Israelis held onto as terrorists invaded their guarded communities and their homes with weapons that penetrated even the bomb shelters.
“The entire country is in a place where personal security has been shaken. A home is no longer a safe place, a shelter is no longer a safe place, parents are no longer a safe place—they can suddenly disappear. The army is no longer a safe place, the police, authorities—everything has been shaken.”
Rina Matigil, who operated One Heart, has been counseling residents in Sderot, a southern Israeli city that has come under rocket bombardment for more than 20 years.
“Even before this war, when I spoke with people or did interviews, I always said, ‘We are all, unfortunately, in a state of trauma,’” she said. The recent events, she added, add more layers to the existing trauma.
Two months out from the onset of the war, most people are in survival mode and have not reached out for therapy, but when they do, experts are expecting a tidal wave of demand.
“They are very busy at the moment with finding themselves, whether in hotels or looking for a job or taking care of the kids,” Levanon explained. “So, people will not now turn to therapy. What we know from our experience is that after the event, we have a tsunami of people who want therapy.”
Levanon said another assumption is that not only will there be more people seeking help, the types of situations they need to cope with are unprecedented.
“We need also to take into consideration that the issues that we will be dealing with are very different. It’s not just a higher number of people—it’s people who are dealing with grief, people who are dealing with very traumatic events, not to mention being a hostage and so on,” she said. “And so the therapists need to be trained to do things that address issues they’ve never dealt with before.”
“Now with residents scattered around the country after evacuating their homes, CBN Israel is working with Israel Trauma Coalition to create a national call center that will connect people to the closest therapist in their new location,” Pelled said. “We are trying to open one national center, not in one geographic location because everyone in the country is scattered and displaced.”
CBN Israel also hosted a workshop for Israeli counsellors, psychologists, and family therapists so they can implement an emergency intervention method in their counseling. Dr. Gary Quinn, a psychiatrist based in Israel who specializes in crisis intervention, anxiety, depressive disorders, and PTSD, led the workshop at the CBN Israel office. Quinn pioneered ISP, Immediate Stabilization Procedure, a type of intervention was successful in Ukraine.
Pelled said the purpose of this early intervention therapy is to break the loop of repeating a negative experience in the hopes of preventing PTSD.
“Of course, it is possible to work with a person at any point, but if you catch the person in time, this will start the healing process sooner,” he said.
CBN Israel is also building a similar program for leaders of congregations around the country to equip them as well to deal with these unprecedented traumas.
Nicole Jansezian is the media coordinator for CBN Israel. A long-time journalist, Nicole was previously the news editor of All Israel News and All Arab News and a journalist at The Associated Press. On her YouTube channel, Nicole gives a platform to the minority communities in Jerusalem and highlights stories of fascinating people in this intense city. Born and raised in Queens, N.Y., she lives in Jerusalem with her husband, Tony, and their three children.